New Paper Positions Forced Marriage as a Family Violence Issue

22nd June, 2021  

In a position paper released today, inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family
Violence has recommended that forced marriage be recognised nationally as a form of family

The paper also includes a number of key recommendations to strengthen Victoria’s response to
this issue.

In the Criminal Code Act (1995), forced marriage is defined as marriage that lacks the consent of
one or both parties in the marriage, and can happen under deception, force or coercion. Victims
of forced marriage could be tricked into leaving their own country, often to find themselves
being pressured into marriage on their arrival to Australia or agreeing to an arrangement based
on false information about her living circumstances or the man she is marrying. Some can be
forced or coerced by family to marry to alleviate poverty or lift the family’s socioeconomic

Forced marriage is a major breach of human rights and is classified as a serious crime in
Australia. It is common for victims of forced marriage to experience other forms of
abuse, including human trafficking, family violence, domestic servitude, forced labour and sexual

“We work with many clients who have experienced forced marriage,” inTouch CEO, Michal Morris
said. “However, it’s not always easily identified. Many women don’t know that it is a crime, or
aren’t aware that a forced marriage has occurred, especially if they have consented to the
union as a result of deception or coercion. Even then, our clients can be reluctant to disclose the
situation, because they fear the criminal and social repercussions on their families.”

Due to this difficulty identifying the forced marriage itself, reporting and prosecution rates remain
low. Additionally, the coercive and controlling nature that characterises these relationships, as
well as cultural and language barriers, can deter victim-survivors in reporting their situation.

Crucially, as inTouch’s paper details, the response needs to be cultural and led by
the communities affected. Faith based and multicultural organisations are an essential part
of recognising, addressing, and condemning forced marriage, and they must drive
the development of training, education and prevention programs.

Furthermore, incorporating bicultural response workers with linguistically tailored support and
information can create culturally safe spaces- identifying and addressing forced marriage far
more quickly and effectively.

“Forced marriage is not a problem that can be solved with law enforcement alone,” Ms Morris
said. “Community and leadership need to be an ongoing part of the approach- it facilitates
discussion and opens avenues for disclosure and support. It’s time we recognised forced
marriage as part of this broader discussion on family violence and equipped the sector

Issues covered in the position paper include:

  • Definitions and presentations of forced marriage
  • Barriers to disclosure and prosecution
  • The role of forced marriage in slavery, human trafficking and abuse
  • Expansion of family violence provisions and definitions
  • Protection and response strategy and legislation
    inTouch’s position paper can be read here.

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